9 Months as An Ex-Pat in Auckland: The Tumbleweed Has Stuck

9 Months as An Ex-Pat in Auckland: The Tumbleweed Has Stuck

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans” –Allen Saunders

I know I’ve been terrible about updating my blog lately and since I just paid to renew my domain name, I thought an update was overdue, especially considering the ironic turn my life has taken since my last post about ex-pat life in Auckland, 4 months ago.

When I wrote that, I was about to give up on Auckland. I felt useless at work, I saw my life passing me by and I was so determined to make a change, I was applying to jobs back in the Northeast, something I never thought I’d do. That was the beginning of many things I never saw coming. Just to put this in context…

January 2016

Just before moving to New Zealand, my grandma predicted, “you’re going to meet a nice Kiwi bloke and stay forever”. I responded with maniacal laughter. “First, New Zealand is way too boring and far away from everything. I’ll stay the year I promised to work, then return to civilization. Secondly, Kiwis are too pale and too chill for me. Auckland’s main redeeming quality is that there’s lots of ex-pats”.   She dismissed my indignant protests with a “grandma-knows-best” little smile and I grunted at the ridiculousness of her premonition then immediately forgot about it.

A foggy trail... Mercer Bay, New Zealan

A foggy trail… Mercer Bay, New Zealan

Fast forward to a few days after I wrote that post (May 2016)

Out of sheer boredom and utter desperation, I rejoined Tinder and started talking to a guy who just passed in his two weeks notice for an engineering job that he felt no longer challenged him. We enjoyed some “good banter” (as they say in these parts) online for a few days, and agreed to meet up. A few minutes before we were supposed to meet, he texted, “I just got out of a relationship and I don’t know what my next step will be after this job ends, so I’m not looking for anything serious”.

I replied, “well, that’s fine with me. I may quit my job and return to the States so I’m not looking for anything that’ll keep me in Auckland”. I also knew that traveling made me incredibly detached, and I was always the one trying to keep things from getting too serious. “Not a problem at all”, I told myself.

Well, our first “meeting” (to which I wore crazy leggings and slippers, as the ultimate anti-date apparel) was nice but relatively ordinary. We went for a walk and we chatted. I liked talking to him and it seemed like he had a good head on his shoulders, but he didn’t make any moves and didn’t even text me that night. “Well, it’s probably for the best”, I reassured myself, “I’m leaving this place soon enough anyway”.

Tim and I a few months later, at a waterfall near Auckland

Tim and I a few months later, at a waterfall near Auckland

Well, long story short, he might not have messaged me that night but he did text me the next day and somehow, it quickly turned into messaging each other for hours each day and hanging out more than we probably should have.

Me in Myanmar

Me in Bagan, Myanmar

A couple weeks after I met him, I knew I was in trouble when it was time to go to Myanmar and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to leave. This was a country that had been on my list for ages and anticipation for 3 weeks of wearing elephant pants and being a dirty backpacker again is what was getting me through long workdays. Myanmar turned out even better than I wanted it to be but somehow traveling this time wasn’t the same. Up until this point, I was driven to travel by a desire to find where I belonged. But during this trip, I had a nagging feeling that I belonged near the pale, blue-eyed Kiwi with ridiculous dance moves. Needless to say, I shortened my trip by a week and joined him and his parents for a few days of fishing and boating on their South Island “bach” (holiday house).    Spending time with him and his parents, who were just as silly and easy going as he was, felt so right that I didn’t even mind giving up warm Southeast Asian weather for being bundled up in thermals and having to de-numb my limbs by the fire!

Me and an eel I caught on Tim's family boat

Looking “Kiwi as” with a fresh catch

Fast-forward another 5 months to the present day (Nov 2016)…

This Kiwi bloke didn’t completely cure me of my travel addiction (I still snuck off for quick trips to Colombia, the States and Niue (a small island in the South Pacific) but those trips too weren’t the same. It was fun to see, eat and do new things but I still couldn’t wait to board the plane back home, knowing he’d be there to pick me up. For the four years prior to moving to New Zealand, I felt like a tumbleweed (a nickname Kim and I came up with on our Midwest road trip), free and unattached, enjoying flying by incredible scenery but nothing stuck.

Before I met Tim, I knew there was nothing about my life in Auckland I really deserved to complain about (I was living in a city ranked as one of the best places to live in the world, my job was slow but it paid well and was incredibly flexible) but that made me even more frustrated because I felt it was wasted on me and I didn’t belong.  Meeting Tim finally made me feel like less of an alien and all of a sudden, I had a sense of peace and belonging that I couldn’t find traipsing around 65 countries.

Since then, a lot of other aspects of my life here have improved dramatically. Now that I’m helping lead faculty and TA training sessions, am involved with curriculum development projects and will be teaching in the studio classroom soon, my job is quickly becoming a dream job. I’ve applied for residency, and just wrote NZ immigration a huge check but felt a bit excited when I brought it to the Post Office. I’ve recently moved into my 4th flat but hung up pictures of friends for the first time and bought things to make it feel like home.  We’ve even been talking about getting a dog (but I know that has to wait a year, especially since South Africa may actually become a reality).

Tim and I in Boston, from our recent trip to the States

Tim and I in Boston, from our recent trip to the States

In Conclusion

I’ve read entries by travel bloggers who dramatically write about settling down, realizing how awesome real life is and curing their travel addiction forever. I don’t think I’ve gotten there yet and still miss the absolute freedom I had as a backpacker.  But I do feel like when I was traveling, I was running away from something (commitment) with no idea of where I was running to.   But now I finally have a life that I can occupy more fully, now that I’m not constantly planning my next escape.

“I know you’re not supposed to look to other people to save you, but whenever I’m around you, the world becomes simple.  My moods lift and the skies shift from smoke and smog to the softest blue.  I know I’ meant to save myself, but the fact is, with you, I don’t have to” -Beau Taplin

Throughout my life, I’ve tried to avoid on external sources of happiness (especially other people). I don’t want this post to sound like a relationship is the magic potion that made everything amazing because it’s not.  Finding Tim has helped me find peace with myself.  If I wasn’t happy with myself, it would be hard to be happy together.  He’s a big reason why I’ve been enjoying Auckland more but he’s not the only reason.  He’s helped me to see that life can be fulfilling, meaningful and enjoyable even without extreme experiences and constantly pushing the limits of my comfort zone.  And New Zealand’s helped me to slow down and realize just being is sometimes enough… just because every millisecond of my life isn’t spent accomplishing things, doesn’t mean its wasted.

“All of us are looking for some kind of escape. Occasionally we find it in each other” -Beau Taplin

Song of the Moment: Whenever I Run– Keith Urban

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